In Greta Gaine’s new music video, “Mikey Likes It,” there’s a skateboard dude who rips the streets of New York City, enchanting women along the way. Mikey ollies a garbage can to the beat, pops off a staircase like it’s a curb, and spins on his skateboard like a break dancer. It’s one of those music videos that you want to play over again mainly because you want to see Mikey in action. His hard stares, mean skating, and that tattoo are way cool. But what most people don’t know is that Mikey is Morgan LaFonte disguised in guys’ clothes with a wig.
It’s not surprising that Greta chose Morgan to play the Mikey character. “I’ve always been a thespian,” says Morgan. In school she loved acting and wants to continue pursuing a film career, but mostly as a stunt woman specializing in car chases and fight scenes. “There are so many avenues,” she says with tons of energy. “Snowboarding is going to open a whole new world and I’ll be able to bypass the bullshit.”
Then some day, she’ll build her own house, maybe in Lake Tahoe, “old-style.” Like the Pilgrims’ farm-building days, she wants a ton of friends to join in and have a part in the building process so that it reflects her and her friends-complete with solar heating and hydro-electric power that “harnesses nature.”
So far, Morgan’s certainly harnessed nature athletically. She’s the first woman to pull off a snowboard backflip on film (TB4), to pull off a backflip in the middle of a chute at an Extreme contest (Squaw Valley ’95) and stick it. She also happens to be an incredibly skilled skateboarder, hackey sacker, and kayaker.
And yet she’s so small. At 5’2″ she’s more like a little girl than 29-year-old backcountry extreme rider. Yet to meet her is like meeting the Zen master of positivity: she’s always stoked on life, even when she’s tired and crampy and she’s always pumped on you and your life (so much so that I find myself filling her in on the most minute details of my daily existence regardless of the fact that I called her for an interview).
A year ago I wrote, “…when Morgan talks, it isn’t about snowboard politics. It’s about standing in a beautiful rainstorm and feeling the drops soak into her skin, or finally getting first tracks down pristine mountains-the stuff that pulls at your heart and shakes up your soul.” Despite the incredible feats and big airs, consciously or unconsciously, Morgan remains firmly on the ground. Even on the day she wrapped her knee around a tree.
THE YIN AND YANG OF PAIN
Watching Morgan ride, you’d never get the feeling she’d ever get hurt. Her balance and timing are impeccable, and like a female Midas she’s got the golden touch for hitting every mark a cinematographer asks her to touch. Only Midas turned sour during one turn last season. She’d just launched a huge air out of the infamous Alta Chutes in Jackson Hole and landed it fine. But the slope out of the Chutes is steep, and there’s a lonely tree that stands in defiance of any avalanche smack in the middle of the fall line. ” Basically, I was riding tired and that’s what I did wrong,” says Morgan. “Never say ‘one last run.’ I was ready to go home and was riding down the rest of the chute and hit a rock under the snow and was pitched out of the chute and thrown up. Gravity swept me down the hill to the only tree on that whole face. When you look at that only tree you’d never think you’d hit it.
“I was in no pain-I was in shock. I could see it the knee and I was looking at the back of my pant leg. ‘This is not real!’ I said to myself. My knee came all the way back around.”
Supposedly, Morgan felt no pain until after the surgery and then mostly from the incisions, only. It’s been seven months and through lots of physical therapy, positive thinking, and homeopathic remedies, she says she “only feels little aches every now and then. But I was freaking right off the bat,” she recounts. “Then four months into it I was like, ‘this is OK and I’m going to learn and gather information.’ It was the Yin and Yang theory-that you can’t have on without the other.
“Mike Hatchette told me all about injuries. He’s been around and said you’ll probably keep it on the ground for the first half of the season and then let loose the last half.
“I’ve had a nice season off and I’m ready to charge it again. There was a reason for my accident and I learned many things about myself in that time off. I’ve been skurfing and skateboarding in the last 6 weeks and everything is coming together-the physical confidence and mental confidence, which comes back as soon as you have the physical behind it. Coming off the last part of recovery is real mental. You need to give yourself the time and love to heal. You have to put in the time, ” she says emphatically, “the time to find out and know how to heal yourself and be strong. There’s always time-you have all the time you can give yourself.”
RIPE FRUIT IS STILL AS SWEET
As for her goals this season, travel is way up there, “Maybe Russia. And filming with Adventure Scope, Standard Films, the greater northwest.”
As for competitions, that’s never really been Morgan’s gig, one reason is because there’s no competition for her. “In the Squaw Extremes, I mean, there’s like 5 women that sign up, ” she says exasperated. As for the King of the Hill: “I’m not into them saying you have to race today-to say here’s the ‘extreme’ line and the face and spot and then you go down and that’s the ‘extreme line.’ But I understand that format, ” continues Morgan, not wanting to harsh on anyone. “Because that format is gentler for people. I love Nick Perata founder of the King of the Hill competition in Valdez but it’s turned into a sponsored advertising campaign for people and for TV. Not for riders. As soon as the media gets involved like that it takes away from the individuality of the person in the sport.”
Her philosophy extends itself to the Olympics. “People like to see things they can relate to, ” says Morgan, carefully. ” Gate riding and halfpipe riding is what, like Time Magazine and ESPN cover. That’s what the general public sees. But a 3,900-foot vertical face would blow them away-it’s almost too dangerous for them to see it. But personally, the fact that they’re even making snowboarding an Olympic sport is a strong foot in the door for our whole sport. Even though I don’t race, the halfpipe-like boardercross or big air-is what separates snowboarding from skiing. But with the Olympics what you’re seeing is a lot of young people, not the ripe fruits of the crop. They don’t really show you who really makes snowboarding, people such as Farmer and Tex and Ox and Tom Burt.”